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I thought a lot about my first article for the Colombian Official Bloggers. Shall I talk about myself? Why I decided to settle down in Colombia? Maybe pick my favourite places? Surely after more than 2 years of extensive travelling in the country I can consider myself an expert. Those would be natural options, I could even make something interesting out of it. But no, not the first post. For this post, I would like to share an emotion, something unexpected that deeply touched me. After all, this is what Colombia is about.
Silvia is not on the Colombian tourism trail; it makes up for half a page on the Lonely Planet, the writer has probably not been there and the place is pretty much unknown to the rest of the world that lives outside Popayan and the Cauca Region.
Silvia is not particularly pretty. I mean, if you lived or travelled in Colombia, a beautiful village high in the mountains with a charming square and a beautiful colonial church is more a pattern than a source of excitement. But Silvia is different on Tuesdays. On Tuesday, it becomes the marketplace for the Guambianos communities that live in the villages around. At 6am sharp, the sleepy town comes alive for a trading frenzy of fruits, vegetables, old garments, duds, chickens, airwaves radios, handicrafts... An Andean car boot sale with raw colours, smells of all sorts, and the odd slab of "fresh" meat hanging. If you travel on a low budget you might as well join the party and sell your water bottle.
But if you lost your water bottle or just started your South American travels as a "flashpacker", what do you do then? Nothing - in appearance at least. Watch people getting off the Jeeps, observe the women waiving in the main square, practice your Spanish by listening to the story tellers, and find your own details to amaze yourself: the men wearing blue dresses, the fruit and vegetable stalls, the bowler hats, the contrasts between people and communities, the over-coloured buses. Make you own film as you stay away from the set. Your sunglasses, your shorts or your camouflage trousers, you're not part of the picture and don't want to be in it.
As the sun comes down, Silvia slowly gets back to its slumber for the next 6 days. Go to the Iglesia de Belen uphill and watch the sunset overlooking the town and the surrounding Equatorian mountains. Enjoy the privilege, because this is what travelling is about. Tomorrow there's another Colombia waiting and you know that you won't be disappointed.